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David Attenborough Finds Living Fossil Tree Romantic, Not Devastating

England’s famous Kew Royal Botanical Gardens is getting a Wollemi Pine, and David Attenborough, naturalist and evolution popularist, is proud of it.  This “living fossil” was thought extinct for 200 million years, but was found alive and well a few years ago in Australia (see 12/15/2000 entry).     Grinning like a kid at Christmas, […]

The Monarch Butterflies in the Flight Simulator, II

How much software can fit in a butterfly brain?  Scientists are again amazed at the navigating ability of Monarch butterflies.  In the 07/09/2002 entry, we reported about how Canadian researchers used a clever flight simulator to test Monarch butterfly navigation with reference to sun angle.  Now, using an enhanced version of the earlier “butterfly flight […]

How Did Salamanders Migrate from North America to Korea?

Salamanders are not particularly thought of as world travelers.  A new species of lungless salamander of the family Plethodontidae has been found in Korea.  Almost all previous members were found only in North America.  To EurekAlert, reporting on a paper published in Nature,1 this is comparable to “discovering pandas in California or kangaroos in Argentina.”  […]

Weeds Hold Promise for Miracle Drugs

We’d like weeds if we knew them better, says John Roach for National Geographic News, especially if we realized they may contain wonder drugs.  “It’s often said that plants hidden in the tangle of the Amazonian rain forest may harbor an undiscovered cancer cure,” he writes; “John Richard Stepp thinks the same can be said […]

“Extinct” Woodpecker Found in Arkansas

One of the world’s largest woodpeckers, the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought for over 50 years to be extinct, has been spotted alive in the remote woods of Arkansas.  See National Geographic News, New Scientist, and MSNBC for details. Update 07/21/2005: The good news may be premature.  News@Nature says that some experts believe the observers were mistaken, […]

Giant Carnivorous Amphibians Found in African Fossil Deposit

Meat-eating amphibians shaped like crocodiles?  Be glad you didn’t live in West Africa 250 million years ago, say scientists at McGill University.  Two species were described, one with large and small fang-like teeth, and another with curved horns on the back of its head. The fossils didn’t come with dates on them, and since amphibian […]

Butterflies Really Know How to Fly

The path of a butterfly may appear haphazard to us, but there is a method to the fluttering.  A UK team of scientists put transponders on butterflies and monitored their flight paths.  They found that the looping paths appear to help with orientation and food detection.  The rest of the time, they flew straight at […]

Dinosaur Fossilized in the Act of Laying Eggs

Two eggs, with shell material still attached, were found inside the oviducts of a theropod dinosaur, a Chinese team reported in Science.1  This first-time discovery of intact eggs in the body of the female “suggests that theropod dinosaurs had two functional oviducts (like crocodiles) but that each oviduct produced only one egg at a time […]

Go to the Roach, Thou Robotics Designer

Most of us can’t step on them fast enough, but of cockroaches, engineers at Johns Hopkins say “the pesky critters are excellent role models” – for robotics.  Classroom exercises include building obstacle courses for cockroaches and observing how they use their antennae to navigate, even in the dark.  Said one student, experienced in trying to […]

Bobble-Head Birds See Straight

Anyone who has fed pigeons in the park has probably wondered why they bob their heads forward and back when they walk.  It not only looks comical to us, it seems like it would give them a very confused sense of sight.  Leave it to scientists to go find out why birds bob their heads.  […]

More Convergent Evolution Claimed for Dino-Era Mammal

A chipmunk-size mammal with Popeye-like forearms and beaver-like teeth resembling an armadillo?  That’s how the discoverers are describing the fossil they named Fruitafossor, a small mammal found near Fruita, Colorado and reported in Science.1  They think it dug burrows and ate termites.  Of special interest were the open-root teeth like those of the beaver.  Lead […]

Migration Theory Overturned: “Mammals Went Crazy” – Or Did Darwinists?

The discovery of an elephant shrew fossil in Wyoming badlands said to be 54 million years old is causing a stir.  Elephant shrews were thought to be endemic to Africa, the alleged cradle of mammals.  This find hints not only that elephant shrews may have originated in North America instead, but also that “there may […]

Wonders from the Animal World

Several recent stories prove that animals continue to amaze us with their tricks: Elephants:  The BBC News summarized a report from Nature1 about an elephant in Kenya named Mlaika that could make “convincing truck sounds.”  The elephant lived near a road and apparently learned how to do impressions.  This is the only other case of […]

Horse Evolution Is Back on the Charts

The old horse-evolution charts from the 1880s have been revised substantially since 1920 when paleontologists began to realize the story was not so simple.  (Thomas Huxley had used the series of O. C. Marsh as a focal point of his 1876 lecture tour in the United States.)  These charts portrayed small horses with three toes […]

Can Evolution Repeat Itself?

A press release from University of Chicago reported today that “115-million-year-old fossil of a tiny egg-laying mammal thought to be related to the platypus provides compelling evidence of multiple origins of acute hearing in humans and other mammals” (emphasis added in all quotes).  The fossil apparently shows inner-ear bones in the monotreme lineage that supposedly […]
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